SALT LAKE CITY — Safe was part of the 2020 Salt Lake Fringe Festival that played entirely online in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Produced by FMG, Safe started out with a lone woman, Valeria Wandja, on a stage cleaning a floor while discussing the need to bury many dead with dignity, and it was eerie and almost hauntingly too real.
Set in Rome, Italy, Safe is a one-woman show written and directed by Federico Maria Giansanti and produced by FMG. The audience never learns the name of Wandja’s character, but she is caring for an old woman off stage named Mrs. Parker. Throughout the show, Wandja’s character speaks about and to a person named Paul off stage about a terrible virus and makes promises about making things cleaner and better to keep things as safe as possible.
During all of this she also makes very impassioned pleas to God about needed to have the strength and the power to be able to be the caregiver for Mrs. Parker and Paul. Throughout the show the tragedy of the virus becomes even more evident and Wandja becomes progressively more passionate in her pleas to God as she becomes progressively more afraid and the people around her succumb to the difficulty of the sickness that appears to be all encompassing.
Maybe it is because I have mostly been in my house since March, or maybe it is because Wandja created a compelling character, but Safe was an emotional play to watch, even though the story was slightly hard to follow. I imagine it was meant to be set during the coronavirus pandemic, but it could easily occur during any contagious plague in history. It was interesting as Wandja talked about how we have all been told to stay home and stay safe, and then wondered about the safety that one finds in home. But a home is not necessarily a safe place; some of the most violent acts can occur in the home. What may be a place of safety and solace for some can be a place of terror and despair for others. Wandja also spoke of how she followed the rules and yet tragedy struck, leaving her feeling alone, forgotten, and lost.
Giansanti’s script is timely and well executed, and the filming of Safe was expertly accomplished. Watching it, however, left me feeling almost empty, which may have very well been the author’s intention. Italy was one of the countries hardest hit in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, and the feeling of panic and urgency that must have accompanied those times was clearly reconstructed by Wandja. Safe is still nagging at me, asking me if I am doing enough to keep myself and my friends and family safe, while at the same time enjoying whatever moments of life I have because we truly do not know how long I have to live.
Finally, there is also an elemental theme of hope woven into Giansanti’s writing. As Wandja stood alone in the last scene speaking of the small amount of hope she had left, I was reminded that hope is sometimes the only thing left in trying times, and I am impressed when writers and actors have the ability to pull hope through darkness as this team did.